The lights dimmed over the dance floor of the Cerritos Performing Arts Center and all in attendance gathered around to await the announcement of prom king.
The senior class president called for a drum roll as Sunny Hills High School senior Matthew Kim clenched his fists in anticipation, hoping that his name would be the one called.
The envelope opened and at the sound of his name, Kim punched his fists in the air in celebration.
The crowd erupted in applause, chanting his name in unison as he donned his crown and sash.
It was time for the newly crowned prom king to join his date in a spotlight dance, like the storybook ending to an ’80s high school movie, but Kim could not let that happen just yet.
He took the emcee’s microphone in hand and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket.
It was a “thank you” speech he prepared, expressing the utmost gratitude toward the friends that made his prom night possible.
“Those guys are so nice and I’m so grateful about that,” Kim said. “I wouldn’t forget this moment with them.”
Senior prom is seen by most as the pinnacle of one’s high school career. It’s the last chance to dress up and dance the night away with your friends before parting ways at graduation.
For Kim, senior prom was extra special, not because he won prom king; but because for him, attending this big event was never in the picture.
“I didn’t think I would go to prom because I didn’t want to spend too much money and I wanted to try and be considerate about the financial situation of my household,” Kim said.
Upon hearing this, seniors Stanley Kim and Nam Nghiem decided that they wanted to change that but were unsure of how they were going to come up with the money.
“I didn’t think we were going to do anything for Matt; I was just heartbroken after hearing him say he couldn’t afford Prom,” said S. Kim. “[Nghiem] suggested that we pay for his ticket and tuxedo rental ourselves, but it would be too much money for the two of us.”
So, they started a fundraising Facebook group, “Matt To Prom 2k15,” and asked their senior classmates for assistance. S. Kim and Nghiem received money through odd jobs like washing cars, Instagram closet sales and donations from the senior class.
With the help of their classmates, S. Kim and Nghiem raised almost $300 and were able to purchase M. Kim’s prom tickets, boutonniere and his date’s corsage.
As prom night drew closer, Kim made all the necessary preparations with S. Kim and Nghiem there every step of the way.
He bought his tickets, got his tuxedo fitted and even asked out a “prom partner.”
“Being able to be [Kim’s] ‘prom partner’ was such an honor,” said Nashi Gunasekara, senior. “Being able to be a part of Matthew’s first and last high school dance in such a special way made prom that much more memorable.”
S. Kim, Nghiem and the rest of Sunny Hills High School senior class made Mission: Impromable possible. “Matt to Prom 2k15” was an example of how people who come together with a common cause can see their goals actualized.
“When we first started this plan, we didn’t think we would raise as much money as we did,” S. Kim said. “This was all possible because of the generous student body of Sunny Hills and their care for Matt. Matt is a very important part of the Senior Class, and we couldn’t possibly have prom without him.”
When the Sunny Hills senior class thought of Kim, the fact that he was a special education student or had financial need did not come to mind. What did come to mind was how his charisma, friendliness and school spirit added a little something special to their final year of high school.